The black serpent symbolizes the introverting libido.
Salome is the anima and Elijah the wise old man.
Salome, being instinctive and quite blind, needs the foreseeing eyes of wisdom that Elijah possesses.
The figure of the prophet is compensatory to that of the blind anima.
As I am an introverted intellectual my anima contains feeling [that is] quite blind.
In my case the anima contains not only Salome, but some of the serpent, which is sensation as well.
As you remember, the real Salome was involved in incestuous relations with Herod, her stepfather, and it was because of the latter’s love for her that she was able to get the head of John the Baptist.
I had read much mythology before this fantasy came to me, and all of this reading entered into the condensation of these figures.
The old man is a very typical figure.
One encounters him everywhere; he appears in all sorts of forms, and usually in company with a young girl. (See Rider Haggard: Wisdom’s Daughter.)
Feeling-sensation is in opposition to the conscious intellect plus intuition, but the balance is insufficient.
When you assume the anima is due to the preponderance of the differentiated function in the conscious, the unconscious is balanced by a figure within itself that compensates the anima figure.
This is the old man Elijah.
It is as though you have a scale, and in the one side of the scale is the conscious, in the other the unconscious.
This was one of my first hypotheses.
With Freud, the unconscious is always pouring out unacceptable material into the conscious, and the conscious has difficulty in taking up this material and represses it, and there is no balance.
In those days I saw a compensatory principle that seemed to show a balance between the conscious and unconscious.
But I saw later that the unconscious was balanced in itself.
It is the yea and the nay. The unconscious is not at all exactly the opposite of the conscious.
It may be irrationally different.
You cannot deduce the unconscious from the conscious.
The unconscious is balanced in itself, as is the conscious.
When we meet an extravagant figure like Salome, we have a compensating figure in the unconscious.
If there were only such an evil figure as Salome, the conscious would have to build up a fence to keep this back, an exaggerated, fanatical, moral attitude.
But I had not this exaggerated moral attitude, so I suppose that Salome was compensated by Elijah.
When Elijah told me he was always with Salome, I thought it was almost blasphemous for him to say this.
I had the feeling of diving into an atmosphere that was cruel and full of blood.
This atmosphere was around Salome, and to hear Elijah declare that he was always in that company shocked me profoundly.
Elijah and Salome are together because they are pairs of opposites.
Elijah is an important figure in man’s unconscious, not in woman’s.
He is the man with prestige, the man with a low threshold of consciousness or with remarkable intuition.
In higher society he would be the wise man; compare Lao-tse.
He has the ability to get into touch with archetypes.
He will be surrounded with mana, and will arouse other men because he touches the archetypes in others.
He is fascinating and has a thrill about him. He is the wise man, the medicine man, the mana man.
Later on in evolution, this wise man becomes a spiritual image, a god, “the old one from the mountains” (compare Moses coming down from the mountain as lawgiver), the sorcerer of the tribe.
He is the legislator.
Even Christ was in company with Moses and Elijah in his transfiguration.
All great lawgivers and masters of the past, such as for example the Mahatmas of theosophical teaching, are thought of by theosophists as spiritual factors still in existence.
Thus the Dalai Lama is supposed by theosophists to be such a figure.
In the history of Gnosis, this figure plays a great role, and every sect claims to have been founded by such a one.
Christ is not quite suitable; he is too young to be the Mahatma.
The great man has to be given another role.
John the Baptist was the great wise man, teacher, and initiator, but he has been depotentiated.
The same archetype reappears in Goethe as Faust and as Zarathustra in Nietzsche, where Zarathustra came as a visitation.
Nietzsche has been gripped by the sudden animation of the great wise man.
This plays an important role in man’s psychology, as I have said, but unfortunately a less important part than that played by the anima.
The serpent is the animal, but the magical animal.
There is hardly anyone whose relation to a snake is neutral.
When you think of a snake, you are always in touch with racial instinct.
Horses and monkeys have snake phobia, as man has.
In primitive countries, you can easily see why man has acquired this instinct.
The Bedouins are afraid of scorpions and carry amulets to protect themselves, especially stones from certain Roman ruins.
So whenever a snake appears, you must think of a primordial feeling of fear.
The black color goes with this feeling, and also with the subterranean character of the snake.
It is hidden and therefore dangerous.
As animal it symbolizes something unconscious; it is the instinctive movement or tendency; it shows the way to the hidden treasure, or it guards the treasure.
The dragon is the mythological form of the snake.
The snake has a fascinating appeal, a peculiar attraction through fear.
Some people are fascinated by this fear.
Things that are awe-inspiring and dangerous have an extraordinary attraction.
This combination of fear and attraction is shown, for instance, when a bird is hypnotized by a snake, for the bird flutters down to fight the snake, and then becomes attracted and held by the snake.
The serpent shows the way to hidden things and expresses the introverting libido, which leads man to go beyond the point of safety, and beyond the limits of consciousness, as expressed by the deep crater.
The snake is also Yin, the dark female power.
The Chinese would not use the snake (i.e., dragon) as a symbol for Yin, but for Yang.
In Chinese [tradition], the Yin is symbolized by the tiger and the Yang by the dragon.
The serpent leads the psychological movement apparently astray into the kingdom of shadows, dead and wrong images, but also into the earth, into concretization.
It makes things real, makes them come into being, after the manner of Yin.
Inasmuch as the serpent leads into the shadows, it has the function of the anima; it leads you into the depths, it connects the above and the below.
There are mythological parallels.
Certain Negroes call the soul “My serpent”—they say, “My serpent said to me,” meaning “I had an idea.”
Therefore the serpent is also the symbol of wisdom, speaks the wise word of the depths.
It is quite chthonic, quite earth-born, like Erda, daughter of the earth.
The dead heroes transform into serpents in the underworld.
In mythology, that which had been the sun-bird devours itself, goes into the earth, and comes up again.
The Semenda Bird, like the phoenix, burns in order to renew itself.
Out of the ashes comes the snake, and out of the snake the bird again.
The snake is the transition from the Heaven-born, back again to the bird.
The snake encoils the vessel of Ra. In the Night Journey, in the Seventh Hour, Ra must fight the serpent. Ra is supported by the ritual of the priests: if he kills the serpent, the sun rises, if he should not succeed, the sun would rise no more.
The serpent is the personification of the tendency to go into the depths and to deliver oneself over to the alluring world of shadows.
I had already engaged the old man in an interesting conversation; and, quite against all expectations, the old man had assumed a rather critical attitude toward my kind of thinking.
He said I treated thoughts as if I generated them myself, but, according to his views, thoughts were like animals in a forest, or people in a room, or birds in the air.
He said, “If you should see people in a room, you would not say that you made those people, or that you were responsible for them.”
Only then I learned psychological objectivity.
Only then could I say to a patient, “Be quiet, something is happening.”
There are such things as mice in a house.
You cannot say you are wrong when you have a thought.
For the understanding of the unconscious we must see our thoughts as events, as phenomena.
We must have perfect objectivity.
A few evenings later, I felt that things should continue; so again I tried to follow the same procedure, but it would not descend.
I remained on the surface.
Then I realized I had a conflict in myself about going down, but I could not make out what it was, I only felt that two dark principles were fighting each other, two serpents.
There was a mountain ridge, a knife edge, on one side a sunny desert country, on the other side darkness.
I saw a white snake on the light side and a dark snake on the dark side.
They met in battle on the narrow ridge.
A dreadful conflict ensued.
Finally the head of the black snake turned white, and it retired, defeated.
I felt, “Now we can go on.”
Then the old man appeared high up on the rocky ridge.
We went far up, and reached a cyclopean wall, boulders piled up in a great ring.
I thought, “Ha, this is a Druidic sacred place.”
We entered through an opening, and found ourselves in a large place, with a mound[ed] Druid altar.
The old man climbed up on the altar.
At once he became small and so did the altar, while the walls grew bigger and bigger.
Then I saw a tiny house near the walls, and a tiny, tiny woman, like a doll, who turned out to be Salome.
I also saw the snake, but it too was very tiny.
The walls kept on growing, and then I realized that I was in the underworld, that the walls were those of a crater, and that this was the house of Salome and Elijah.
All this time, I did not grow, but kept my own size.
As the walls grew, Salome and Elijah grew a bit bigger.
I realized that I was at the bottom of the world.
Elijah smiled and said, “Why, it is just the same, above or below.”
Then a most disagreeable thing happened.
Salome became very interested in me, and she assumed that I could cure her blindness.
She began to worship me.
I said, “Why do you worship me?”
She replied, “You are Christ.”
In spite of my objections she maintained this.
I said, “This is madness,” and became filled with skeptical resistance.
Then I saw the snake approach me.
She came close and began to encircle me and press me in her coils.
The coils reached up to my heart. I realized as I struggled, that I had assumed the attitude of the Crucifixion.
In the agony and the struggle, I sweated so profusely that the water flowed down on all sides of me.
Then Salome rose, and she could see.
While the snake was pressing me, I felt that my face had taken on the face of an animal of prey, a lion or a tiger.
The interpretation of these dreams is this:
First the fight of the two snakes: the white means a movement into the day, the black into the kingdom of darkness, with moral aspects too.
There was a real conflict in me, a resistance to going down.
My stronger tendency was to go up.
Because I had been so impressed the day before with the cruelty of the place I had seen, I really had a tendency to find a way to the conscious by going up, as I did on the
The mountain was the kingdom of the sun, and the ring-wall was the vessel in which people had gathered the sun.
Elijah had said that it was just the same below or above.
Compare Dante’s Inferno.
The Gnostics express this same idea in the symbol of the reversed cones.
Thus the mountain and the crater are similar.
There was nothing of conscious structure in these fantasies, they were just events that happened.
So I assume that Dante got his ideas from the same archetypes.
I have seen these ideas very often in patients—the upper and the lower cones, things above and things below.
Salome’s approach and her worshiping of me is obviously that side of the inferior function which is surrounded by an aura of evil.
I felt her insinuations as a most evil spell.
One is assailed by the fear that perhaps this is madness.
This is how madness begins, this is madness.
For example, in a certain Russian book there is a story of a man who fears he will go mad.
Lying in bed at night, he sees a bright square of moonlight in the middle of the room.
He says to himself, “If I should sit there and howl like a dog, then I would be mad, but I am not doing it so I am not mad.”
Then he tries to dismiss this thought, but after a while he says to himself, “I might sit there and howl like a dog, knowing it and choosing it, and still I would not be mad.”
Again he tries to put the thought away, but finally he can resist it no longer—he gets up and sits in the moonlight and howls like a dog, and then he is mad.
You cannot get conscious of these unconscious facts without giving yourself to them.
If you can overcome your fear of the unconscious and can let yourself down, then these facts take on a life of their own.
You can be gripped by these ideas so that you really go mad, or nearly so.
These images have so much reality that they recommend themselves, and such extraordinary meaning that one is caught.
They form part of the ancient mysteries; in fact, it is such figures that made the mysteries.
Compare the mysteries of Isis as told in Apuleius, with the initiation and deification of the initiate.
Awe surrounds the mysteries, particularly the mystery of deification.
This was one of the most important of the mysteries; it gave the immortal value to the individual—it gave certainty of immortality.
One gets a peculiar feeling from being put through such an initiation.
The important part that led up to the deification was the snake’s encoiling of me.
Salome’s performance was deification.
The animal face which I felt mine transformed into was the famous [Deus] Leontocephalus of the Mithraic mysteries, the figure which is represented with a snake coiled around the man, the snake’s head resting on the man’s head, and the face of the man that of a lion.
This statue has only been found in the mystery grottoes (the under-churches, the last remnants of the catacombs).
The catacombs were not originally places of concealment, but were chosen as symbolical of a descent into the underworld.
It was also part of those early conceptions that the saints should be buried with the martyrs in order to go down into the earth before rising again.
The Dionysian mysteries have the same idea.
When the catacombs decayed, the idea of the church continued.
The Mithraic religion also had an underground church, and only initiates assisted at the underground ceremonies.
Holes were cut in the walls of the underground portion in order that lay people might hear in the church above what was being said by the initiates in the church below.
The lower church was fitted up with divans or cubicles placed opposite each other.
Bells were used in the ceremony, and bread marked with a cross.
We know that they celebrated a sacramental meal where this bread was eaten with water instead of wine.
The Mithraic cult was strictly ascetic.
No women were admitted as members.
It is almost certain that the symbolical rite of deification played a part in these mysteries.
The lion-headed god encoiled by the snake was called Aion, or the eternal being.
He derives from a Persian deity, Zrwanakarana, which word means “the infinitely long duration.”
Another very interesting symbol in this cult is the Mithraic amphora with flame arising from it, and the lion on one side with the snake on the other, both trying to get at the fire.
The lion is the young, hot, dry July sun in culmination of light, the summer.
The serpent is humidity, darkness, the earth, winter.
They are the opposites of the world trying to come together with the reconciling symbol between them.
It is the famous symbolism of the vessel, a symbolism that survives till 1925—see Parsifal. It is the Holy Grail, called the Vase of Sin (see King: The Gnostics and Their Remains).
Also it is a symbol of the early Gnostics.
It is of course a man’s symbol, a symbol of the womb—the creative womb of the man out of which rises the fire.
When the pairs of opposites come together, something divine happens, and then it is immortality, the eternal, creative time.
Wherever there is generation there is time, therefore Chronos is God of Time, Fire, and Light.
In this deification mystery you make yourself into the vessel, and are a vessel of creation in which the opposites reconcile.
The more these images are realized, the more you will be gripped by them.
When the images come to you and are not understood, you are in the society of the gods or, if you will, the lunatic society; you are no longer in human society, for you cannot express yourself.
Only when you can say, “This image is so and so,” only then do you remain in human society.
Anybody could be caught by these things and lost in them—some throw the experience away saying it is all nonsense, and thereby losing their best value, for these are the creative images.
Another may identify himself with the images and become a crank or a fool.
Question: What is the date of this dream?
Dr. Jung: December 1913.
All this is Mithraic symbolism from beginning to end. In 1910 I had a dream of a Gothic cathedral in which Mass was being celebrated.
Suddenly the whole side wall of the cathedral caved in, and herds of cattle, with ringing bells, trooped into the church.
You may remember that Cumont remarks that if something had happened to disrupt Christianity in the third century, the world would be Mithraic today. ~Carl Jung, 1925 Seminar, Pages 99-108
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